By Les Tan/Red Sports
The Padang, Sunday, December 2, 2012 — I was hanging about the Padang when I saw Renuka Satianathan. The first thing the bubbly 2011 SEA Games 10k runner said to me was: “I’ve got a really funny story to tell you!”
Turns out that her brother, Devathas, ended up having to run the full marathon in her running shoes because he packed the wrong gear in the morning. He had running shoes — but two left sides.
Slipping on his sister’s pair, Devathas eventually finished as the fifth-fastest Singaporean in a time of 3 hours 1 minute 38.56 seconds.
When I found Devathas later, I said that the whole world should know he finished fifth in women’s shoes.
The brave fellow kindly agreed to share his story.
Heck, he even agreed to tell it in his own words.
Les Tan: Heard you ended up running with your sister’s shoes. What happened?
Devthas Satianathan: Woke up at 3am, freshened up and headed downstairs to get my shoes before leaving. It was dark (mitigating factor #1) and my shoes were all placed messily on a rack because it rained the day before – they’re usually placed on the window sill to dry (mitigating factor #2).
In my haste to perform my duties as chauffeur for Colin Tung (mitigating factor #3), I grabbed what looked like my pair of Bostons. (Colin Tung finished as the fourth fastest Singaporean.) It turns out they were indeed Bostons, but the left of each of my old and new pairs. They looked strikingly similar (mitigating factor #4) – same colour theme and all.
I only reopened the plastic bag in which I put the shoes when I parked at the parking lot behind Timbre. At that point — an hour before flag off — I had two options: drive back and retrieve my shoes or use my sister’s. My sister and Stephanie kindly offered to help get my shoes from home. The plan was to meet them at the start point, after my warm up with Colin. Alas, this wasn’t to be.
I met my sister at kilometer 6 shouting after me, waving a plastic bag wildly. I put two and two together before her words registered. I wasn’t that keen on a shoe pit-stop, though, so thanked her for the efforts but declined. (I found out later, from Stephanie, that my sister “threatened to kill me” should I refuse the shoes. I dearly hope the post-marathon group therapy session alleviated any residual tensions.)
Les: Both you and your sister are excellent runners. Were your parents runners too?
Devathas: My sister pretty much set the bar. My motivation’s to keep up with her — no mean feat. My Dad used to do the steeplechase. He also recounted, on a few occasions, of having done the Singapore Marathon (back when it was sponsored by Mobil). His story seemed a bit outlandish though – stopping midway for a snack (prata, if I recall correctly. Living up the stereotype well) and being questioned by a bemused police officer along the way as the road closures were fast expiring (huh? You’re still running!?).
Have to check with my sister as to the legitimacy of these accounts — her corroboration may shield me from any impending defamation suits – from Mobil or other parties …
Les: How did you get into running and when did you get started?
Devathas: Although I can’t quite pin down my initial attraction to running, I’m pretty sure my sister’s dominance in the running scene featured quite prominently in getting me off my bum. The age old mantra of “not being slower than a girl” ought to be taken far more seriously when said girl is also one’s sister.
I think one of my first “races” was the 2004 Mizuno Run. I took an hour to complete 10km and could barely walk the following day. I also recall carrying a towel along during the run. Very serious fashion faux pas.
Les: What are some of the most memorable highlights from running over the years?
Devathas: In one of my first ever “races”, as I was overtaking a runner — as stealthily as I knew how — he gestured to turn in my direction and spat. Straight into my face. He was quick to apologise, though that was small consolation. Lesson learnt: If you do not face your foes head-on, you will have spit in your face.
Fast forward to 2011, one of my favourite races was the Real Run 21km event. I ran the first part of the race with Colin and Ang Chee Yong. We started at a consistent pace while the Gurkhas took of at breakneck speed. It was only after about 6km that we met up with Anne Qi Hui, and soon after, the first Kenyan woman.
At the first u-turn, we noticed the Gurkhas ahead of us. I told Chee Yong and Colin that we’d get them all. True enough, we did — mostly. All of us placed in the top 10. In my final 2km, I was catching up to the first 2 Gurkhas (third and fourth in the race at that point. First two were Kenyans). I had to choose between stealthily disguising myself as a 10km runner (by then both categories had merged) and sneaking past, thereby avoiding a sprint finish, or confronting them head on. I impulsively chose the latter and prevailed, finishing third.
I realise now that the impulse must have been inspired by a subconscious recollection of the 2004 spit-in-face incident. I’ll always be proud of the 2011 Real Run effort – a race that embodied well-executed tactics, teamwork and no spit in the face.
But seriously, marathons, and running events, are all about the people, spectators and competitors alike. I did the London Marathon, I started way too fast and was reduced to walking at some points. The moment I stopped running and started walking, the crowd (and what an unforgettable crowd it was — the WHOLE COURSE was lined, practically from start to finish, by wonderful spectators) cheered me on without even knowing who I was.
One guy even stuck out a gel — what an amazing gesture. London was memorable for the spectators. 2011 Real Run (and all the other races I’ve done in Singapore) for the competitors and comrades.
Les: Any highlights from your marathon that you ran on Sunday?
Devathas: Without my sister, Sunday wouldn’t have been possible. In the immediacy of the situation, this of course relates to the shoes. But more than that, she was probably also the but-for cause of my getting into running in the first place. Much credit to her.
Cliche’d as it sounds, the mental element in the marathon cannot be overstated. With a less than stellar lead up, I stunned myself by having completed the course. Even at kilometer 6, I was having doubts about making it to the halfway mark. The marathon rewards experience, but only where such experience is channeled productively. I guess very much analogous to other facets of life.